Great Horned Owl at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, PA
29 scarlet macaws were released in the state of Veracruz in Mexico in late August, increasing the wild population by 36%.
The species was almost wiped out 50 years ago from habitat loss and poaching for the pet trade, as the population was reduced from thousands to just 250. Defenders of Wildlife supports the Mexican National University’s Institute of Biology to reintroduce captive-bred macaws into the wild.
All reintroduced macaws are identified by marks on their bills, tags on their wings and transponders they carry that receive radio signals. Some birds also have radio transmitters so that the biologists can track them to see where they go and what locations might be best for future releases. Each of the identifiers and devices also helps prevent poaching of the birds.
The plan is to continue releasing macaws every three or four months for the next five years to build a stable population of 300-500 birds. Once these numbers have been achieved, Veracruz will be home to the largest wild population of scarlet macaws in Mexico.
Releases are just one part of recovery efforts, though, as there is also an intense reforestation program to slowly bring back lost habitat. In addition, there are quick bird identification guides to promote bird watching that will provide tourist income to local communities and prevent poaching.
Defenders of Wildlife has also created educational materials – including posters, children’s coloring books, and comic books for youths and adults – to teach the local communities about the importance of these birds and restoring the species to the wild.
Since 1995, half of Ghana’s bird population has been wiped out. Deforestation, on the other hand, has risen by 600%.
Researchers have found that poaching and illegal logging has destroyed Ghana’s wildlife, with studies showing dramatic declines in mammals and now birds. A paper by several researchers including Nicole Arcilla, a postdoctoral researcher at Drexel University who studied in Ghana’s forests counting the birds, found that the number of forest birds there has dropped by more than 50% since 1995.
The researchers also found that several species had disappeared altogether. They counted 46 forest bird species, compared to 71 from 20 years ago. And of the species they did observe, some of the numbers had declined by as much as 90%.
On the other hand, legal and illegal logging in the Ghana forests has increased by 600%, a number at which the forest will be gone if it continues. 80% of the logging is still illegal, which directly decimates the bird’s habitat but also gives more access to poachers. Arcilla says:
“The logging is so intense that it’s literally deforestation. Within a generation they’re all going to be gone. It’s just a terrible tragedy if we let it happen…Everywhere we went there were wire snare traps, which are completely banned in Ghana, but they’re everywhere. Even the smallest amount of law enforcement could change that, but there isn’t any.”
The good news is that even with the decline in bird numbers, the forests still housed many of the species from before. They can recover, if we allow them to. This means action must be taken to protect Ghana’s forests and the species that still dwell there, including forest patrols, roadblocks and eco-tourism. Arcilla says:
“These problems can be solved. Ghana is a resilient, vibrant country. There are a lot of people in Ghana who will help solve these problems if they are supported by the international community.”
Featured image by Francesco Veronesi / CC BY-SA 2.0